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‘I Feel Pretty’ Preaches Beauty is Only Skin-deep

Amy Schumer is one of the funniest people on the planet. Her clever takes on sex, body image, and gender dynamics challenge conventional thinking, while also being bust-a-gut funny. Schumer refined her comedic voice on her TV series, Inside Amy Schumer, before unleashing her brand on the big screen with Trainwreck and Snatched, and she’s now back in theatres with her new comedy, I Feel Pretty, playing a woman with low self-esteem who suddenly believes she’s the sexiest lady alive. If you enjoy Schumer’s self-deprecating style of humour, I Feel Pretty falls right in her wheelhouse.

Schumer plays Renee, an average woman living an unremarkable life. She spends her days stuck in a basement in Chinatown, working remotely for a cosmetics company. She makes small talk with an asocial co-worker named Mason (Adrian Martinez) by day, and parties with her girlfriends at night. Renee wants to be wanted, and she covets the fairy-tale life of prom queens and Bachelor contestants. Tired of being ignored, Renee takes a page from the movie Big and heads out into a stormy night, wishes on a coin, and throws it into a fountain. But this isn’t Big or Freaky Friday, so she remains the same old Renee.

While at a SoulCycle class, Renee falls off her bike and smacks her head. After the knock to the noggin, she experiences a “magical” change. Suddenly, she’s sporting toned arms, flat abs, and she’s lost her double chin. But here’s the catch: this change is all in her head. No one else sees it, not even the audience. The new Renee moves through life with the confidence and attitude of a supermodel, and now her wants and desires start falling into place.

The comedian excels at roles in vulgar cringe-comedies with a touch of heart, but I Feel Pretty is watered down Schumer. It’s not vulgar or cringe-worthy, and it lacks heart. It’s as if they tossed out Schumer’s signature charm along with the R-rated vulgarity. If Trainwreck is peak-Schumer, then I Feel Pretty is Amy at 65%. Most of the jokes are bland and inoffensive, with quite a few stinkers that even Schumer can’t save. The worst part, however, is that once Renee enters  “I feel pretty’ mode, she starts transitioning into a “mean girl,” and it doesn’t take long for her delusions and insensitivity to become obnoxious.

I Feel Pretty is watered down Schumer.

Aside from a brief appearance by Dave Attell, the supporting characters don’t pick up the comedic slack. Renee’s two besties, Jane (Busy Philipps) and Vivian (Aidy Bryant), disappear for long stretches, and don’t leave much of an impression even when they’re on screen. Renee’s love interest, Ethan (Rory Scovel), doesn’t fare any better. The film leaves us wondering how a raging egomaniac like Renee could bedazzle a decent guy like Ethan. Only one character leaves an impression — the always phenomenal Michelle Williams. She plays Renee’s boss and cosmetics mogul, Avery LeClaire. With her helium voice and Barbie doll looks, people don’t take Avery seriously. Avery also pines for people to see her differently, and I would much rather see a film about her journey towards self-acceptance.

It’s hard to take I Feel Pretty’s message seriously even when the film is at its most sincere. Renee’s final revelation is so self-evident it could be one of the life lessons Elmo shares on Sesame Street. The film’s heart is in the right place, as it wants to deliver an earnest message about inner-beauty, confidence, and self-acceptance, and the jokes don’t come at the expense of Renee’s looks; they come from her pursuit of something as vapid as physical beauty.

Written By

Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based pop culture writer and film critic who enjoys covering the city's biggest (and nerdiest) events. Victor has covered TIFF, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada for publications all over the internet. You can find his latest posts on Twitter and Instagram.

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